In a recent study by Booyens and Thantsha (2013), Garlic was acknowledged as a powerful broad spectrum anti-microbial, able to kill many types of pathogens (see the many studies in references below).

But what is the effect of garlic on probiotic organisms such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium?

Booyens and Thantsha (2013) investigated the antimicrobial effects of different garlic preparations on five strains of Bifidobacteria and one strain of Lactobacillus.

What Booyens and Thantsha discovered was that certain strains of Bifido where more susceptible to garlic’s antimicrobial effects than others, with B. lactis being the least effected, following by some B. longum strains (but not others) and then bifidum being the most sensitive, whilst the L. acidophilus was not effected at all.

Some issues arise in the design of this study: the first issue is that Bifido is an anaerobe and therefore hard to study outside the body. It is exceedingly difficult to get it to grow. Some of the difficulties may be due simply to Bifido’s general sensitivity outside the body.

The second issue is that Booyens and Thantasha (2013) used very specific strains so we cannot generalize the results to all strains of Bifido.  Third, different growing methods result in different hardiness of the microorganism. Therefore some are more susceptible than others to heat, acid, and antimicrobials.

Forth, within the Bifido family, some species were less susceptible to garlic, but no further human studies were done to ascertain the amounts of garlic a person can take with certain species of Bifido.  This demonstrates the difficulties of studying microbiome.

The one Lactobacillus species that was analyzed was acidophilus and it appeared to not be effected by the garlic.  This result add to the body of evidence that confirms the genus Lactobacillus a resistant to garlic.

Overall, the conclusions we take from this research is that Lactobacillus maintains its status as resistant to garlic and therefore is a probiotic that can be taken with garlic at the same time, whereas, regarding the Bifido species selection as the authors of the research state, “Caution is therefore advised when using probiotic Bifidobacteria and garlic simultaneously.”

Reference:

Booyens and Thantsha, 2013, Antibacterial effect of hydrosoluble extracts of garlic (Allium sativum) against Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus acidophilus, African Journal of Microbiology Research, 7(8), pp. 669-677.  (See the full research)

Clinical Notes:

We love garlic as an antimicrobial for the GI tract.  It covers so many possible pathogens.  These include Escherichia, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Proteus, Bacillus, Clostridium, Neisseria, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Shigella, Mycobacterium and Helicobacter— all potential poster bacteria for life threatening diseases.  (Ankri and Mirelman, 1999; Belguith et al., 2010; Deresse, 2010; Gupta and Ravishanka, 2005; Uchida et al., 1975; Cellinin et al., 1996; Sivam, 2001 respectively).

The antimicrobial power of garlic doesn’t stop here, for it has also proven to be a very effective antifungal (i.e. inhibiting and killing Candida albicans), antiprotozoal (think of Giardia and Cryptosporidium, both dangerous infections prevented and stopped by garlic) and antiviral properties —garlic kills viruses upon direct contact, including those responsible for viral meningitis, viral pneumonia, as well as herpes infections.  (Ankri and Mirelman, 1999; Harris et al., 2001)

Though there is substantial evidence to support the claim for pathogens, there is limited literature on its effects on beneficial bacteria, specifically probiotic bifidobacteria.  This study reveals for the first time, susceptibility of Bifidobacteria to antibacterial activity of garlic.

References:

Ankri S, Mirelman D (1999). Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic. Microbes Infect. 2:125-129.

Belguith HF, Kthiri A, Chati A, Abu Sofah J, Ben H, Ladoulsi A (2010). Inhibitory effect of aqueous garlic extract (Allium sativum).  Food Sci. Technol. 37:263-268.

Deresse D (2010). Antibacterial effect of garlic (allium sativum) on Staphylococcu aureus:  An in vitro study.  Asian J. Med. Sci. 2:62-65.

Gupta S, Ravishankar S (2005).  A comparison of the antimicrobial activity of garlic, ginger, carrot, and turmeric pastes against Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in laboratory buffer and ground beef. Foodborne Pathog. Dis. 2:330-340.

Uchida Y, Takahashi T, Sato N (1975).  The characteristics of the antibacterial activity of garlic.  Jpn. J. Antibiot. 28:638-646.

Cellini L, Campli D, Masulli E, Bartolomeo DS, Allocati N (1996). Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori by garlic extract (Allium sativum). FEMS Immuno. Med. Microbiol. 13:273-277.

Sivam GP (2001). Protection against Helicobacter pylori and other bacterial infections by garlic. J. Nutr. 131:1106S-1108S.

Harris JC, Cottreli SL, Plummer S, Lloyd D (2001).  Antimicrobial properties of Allium sativum (garlic).  Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 57:282-286.

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